Pontypool, Psycho,
and five other movies

Attack of the Phantoms (1978)
a/k/a Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park

Anthony Zerbe nominally stars, and he's far better than necessary as a mad scientist of roller-coasters and other thrill rides. Nobody's watching this to see Zerbe, though. It's a horror movie starring Kiss, and that's the only reason to see it.

Every member of Kiss is a superhero. Peter Criss is Cat Man, Ace Frehley is Space Ace, Gene Simmons is The Demon, and Paul Stanley is Star Child. They're behind their famous makeup all through the movie, and wisely aren't called upon to do much acting.

The film is set at an unnamed amusement park, where the band will be performing tonight, but before the concert there'll be a kids-in-Kiss-makeup competition, malfunctioning rides and animatronics, and up to twenty bucks worth of special effects.

"I want to rock and roll all night, and party every day."

And really, who doesn't?

This was produced by Joseph Barbera, who usually worked with Bill Hanna on shows like The Flintstones and The Jetsons, so this movie is not to be taken seriously. It knows it, though, and whenever it gets boring there's another song by Kiss.

Verdict: YES. It's kinda fun.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Blacula (1972)

This is a serviceable blaxploitation spin on Dracula. Other than the color switch, and setting it in the present day instead of a creaky old castle, it's just the 99th remake.

It is a bit better than your average blood-sucking vampire flick. William Marshall stars, and he's fun to watch, with or without fangs. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Domino Kid (1957)

Rory Calhoun stars. He's unlikable, the story is uninteresting, and after about an hour I fell asleep. Last thing I remember was a castanets dance sequence so long that I dreamed about it all through the nap. 

The Neverending
Film Festival

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

Equilibrium (2002)

This is sci-fi that takes place as mankind recovers from WWIII. We've built a new society that suppresses emotion and bans art and literature, to eliminate man's inhumanity to man. There's no war any more, but it's not a place where you'd want to live, or, for that matter, spend a couple of hours.

If you've seen more than a few movies, you've already seen this future.

"I live to safeguard the continuity of this great society."

Christian Bale stars, and obviously Equilibrium had an ample budget, but it's soooo tedious. All through the movie, lines are delivered as if they're epic, legendary, and The Moral of The Story, but none of them are, since there's no point to any of it. Equilibrium is just a B-movie with more money than imagination behind it. It should've starred Vin Diesel or Brion James.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Pontypool (2008)

Imagine Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" radio drama, but the breaking news isn't an alien invasion.

Stephen McHattie plays a radio talker who's working at a station in the small town of Pontypool, after being fired in a bigger market. He wants to build a loyal audience by speaking from the gut instead of just reading the snow reports and school closure list, but management is trying to rein him in.

Today's an especially wacky morning, though, as the breaking news warps from a hostage situation to riots in the street, intra-family murders, and what looks like (but isn't) a zombie apocalypse.

On the radio show, panic and paranoia are in the air. Nobody's sure what's going on in town, and it's all happening quicker than anything can be confirmed, so the station's tiny staff is flummoxed but doing their best. When their star (only?) reporter says, "I've seen things today that are going to ruin the rest of my natural life, and I'm scared. I'm scared!" you'll be scared too.

This would make a very good radio drama, and it did — Pontypool was on radio before it was remade as a movie, and the radio broadcast is included on the DVD.

It's also a kick-ass movie. It never leaves the studio, so all the news flashes come in by the phone, and that's a smart way to make a low-budget sci-fi. Radioman McHattie's marvelously incredulous facial expressions are better than any special effects, anyway.

Pontypool is fresh and smart filmmaking, and if you dig an inch under the surface, there's a message here, about the power of mass media, and of words.

"So, what does it mean? Well... it means something's going to happen. Something big. But then, something's always about to happen."

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Psycho (1960)

My apologies to the memories of Alfred Hitchcock. I was dead wrong when I made a snide crack about Psycho a while back, calling it a slasher flick.

Hey, I'd only seen it once, when I was in high school, which was long, long ago. All I'd remembered was the famous shower scene.

Now I've seen Psycho again, through much older and slightly wiser eyes, and there's more to it than the shower scene. Lots more, and Psycho is not a slasher movie. It's a very good and remarkably low-key thriller, with really only that one 'action' sequence. 

Before and after the shower, it's all tension and suspense, delicately scripted and gorgeously filmed, building toward a truly goosebumpy surprise ending that's sadly not a surprise any more, since it's one of the most well-known movie plot twists in the history of movie plot twists.

Psycho is an excellent, riveting film, even if you know what's coming, and it's Mr Hitchcock's last great movie. 

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Rats: Night of Terror (1984)

This is a movie about a major infestation of rats. The title sort of gives it away.

It's set a couple of hundred years after the apocalypse, but I don't know why. The rats look like 20th century rats, and the people seem like 20th century people, albeit extra stupid. There's a pretty black woman whose name is Chocolate, which is where I clicked it off.

"We're surrounded by rats preparing to attack. We must stick together at all costs. It's all we have!" 

Then you don't have much.

Verdict: BIG NO.

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Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. No talking once the lights dim. Real butter, not that fake crap, on the popcorn. Piracy is not a victimless crime. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.  


  1. >Psycho is ... Mr Hitchcock's last great movie.

    Some might disagree, but I don't. My mom, for example, fucking LOVES "The Birds." I kinda hate it.

    1. The Birds, same as Psycho, I saw only once and dismissed it as piffle. Maybe I was wrong about that, too, but I don't have the curiosity to watch it again and doublecheck me.

    2. The problem with The Birds is that it was Hitchcock trying to use special effects. They had already aged incredibly poorly by the time I saw the movie, around age 12-13 in the mid-80s. It takes away from the things he has always done best, IMO.

    3. Were the effects bad? I don't remember it well enough to remember,

      Years ago, I read some idiot somewhere theorizing that The Birds was an allegory about integration. Let one blackbird in, and they'll ruin the whole neighborhood, or some such rot. Just more birdshit, almost certainly.

  2. Pontypool -- to be honest I didn't completely understand the end of it but yes it was very good. Thanks for the tip.

    1. Never seen anything quite like it, glad you enjoyed.


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